Your dog scratches a lot and you don't understand why and you don't know what to do to stop it. You will find here all the answers to your questions in order to better understand this behavior, and to be able to act as well as possible!
My dog scratches a lot: the line between normal and excessive behavior
A dog that scratches, so far it is quite normal. But as with many behaviors, it's when they become excessive that you should start to take an interest and sometimes even worry about them.
Indeed, if your dog scratches excessively the same area of the body, you can start to suspect a discomfort or even a behavioral disorder.
Moreover, you can also linger on the subject if your dog, in addition to scratching excessively, in an untimely and repeated way, a particular zone of its body, adopts other behaviors such as chewing / licking of this same zone, rolling on the ground, rubbing on all possible surfaces (walls, sofa, your legs etc.) or even regular shaking of the head.
My dog scratches a lot: why?
As with any excessive behavior, the most important thing is to find the cause and then solve the problem thoroughly. The mistake not to make would be to punish a dog for such or such behavior without really understanding why he acts that way.
If a dog scratches a lot, there is a reason and it is up to you (in collaboration with a veterinarian and/or a dog trainer) to identify it and then propose a treatment or an adapted work plan.
The main reasons that can explain this phenomenon:
• Your dog is infested with external parasites
This is the first cause we suspect when a dog scratches a lot! "Does your dog have fleas or what?" Indeed, your dog may be infected with fleas, lice, augusts, ticks, etc. Regarding fleas or lice, it will be relatively easy to identify them by their presence or by their droppings at the base of your dog's coat.
However, for mites (e.g. augusts or cheyletids), they are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. In any case, I recommend that you consult your veterinarian so that he/she can offer your dog an appropriate curative treatment. But it is well known that it is always more effective to prevent and therefore propose a preventive treatment throughout the year so that your dog is protected from these infections. Once again, consult your veterinarian or your specialized pharmacist so that he can guide you towards the best option in terms of anti-parasite treatment.
• Your dog has a skin allergy
A skin allergy can also cause your dog to scratch excessively and thus explain such itching. Your dog may be allergic to the bite of an external parasite, but also to a food he has eaten or to a product he has been in contact with. As for us, humans, dogs can be allergic to various products, various substances without really understanding the cause. Sometimes, it is due to a genetic anomaly in the skin, which causes hypersensitivity to various products/substances/materials. Once again, consult your veterinarian who will be able to help you detect the allergenic origin of your pet so that you can take all necessary measures and precautions.
• A fungal infection is an infection caused by a fungus or yeast
This infection can occur in various parts of the body and can be caused by antibiotics, high stress or simply by skin irritation. In dogs, fungal infections are most often found in the ear canal, the belly, the joints between the fingers and the base of the claws or in the lips. This causes an increase in sebum production, making the skin very smelly. Redness may also appear and your dog's skin will be thicker on the infected areas.
• Your dog is anxious
Stress is also one of the main causes of dog itching. Just as with us humans, stress can lead to many skin ailments. To use a technical term (and look good at dinner parties), this is called psychogenic dermatosis. The dog will then try to soothe itself by licking the part that irritates it. As we have already seen in a previous article, licking allows the dog to calm down and soothe itself. Moreover, you can observe this excessive scratching behavior if your dog is bored. This is called a replacement activity.
• Your dog is sick
Finally, and I don't wish it on you, your dog may also be scratching a lot because of a skin tumor or an autoimmune skin disease. Don't hesitate to consult your veterinarian to rule out any such disease. Other reasons for excessive scratching may include An ear infection / Rhinitis / Conjunctivitis / Dental abscess / Anal gland engorgement (your dog rubs his buttocks on the ground) / The presence of internal parasites.
• Your dog suffers from dermatitis (dog skin disease)
Atopic dermatitis, parasites, demodecia, allergies, sarcoptic mange.... There are many dog skin diseases, and they do not affect all dogs in the same way. Depending on your dog's breed, age, diet and environment, your dog may be at risk for one disease or another. It is because of this diversity that it is important to regularly observe your dog's skin to detect any symptoms that may indicate a deterioration of the skin and the possible appearance of a dog dermatitis problem. The sooner you detect it, the sooner you can act and treat it. The best way to get the right diagnosis is to go to a veterinarian, of course. Note however that a good groomer will be able to quickly indicate the existence of a probable disease, and thus serve as an alert. For the treatment, a visit to the vet will be mandatory in order to provide you with the most appropriate treatment.
My dog scratches a lot: what should I do?
In all the cases mentioned so far, the most important thing is to have your pet examined by a veterinarian in order to eliminate all potentially serious causes and, above all, to propose an appropriate treatment to your dog to relieve him of his itching.
But in general, the first thing to do, the first reflex to have: will be to treat your dog against internal and external parasites but also and especially to treat the whole environment of your dog.
Indeed, treating your dog without treating his environment would be like putting a band-aid on a wooden leg: it's useless.
However, for scratching lesions due to stress or boredom in particular, you can of course ask your veterinarian for advice if he is specialized in canine behavior, but I also recommend that you call on the services of a dog educator who can supplement the information and advice of your veterinarian.
Indeed, a dog educator will be able to give you personalized advice, will be able to guide you towards possible playful activities to spend your dog well, according to its age, its morphology, its natural instincts as well as its physical capacities but he will also be able to speak to you about alternative solutions to reduce the stress of your dog.
Indeed, to reduce your dog's stress, there are many points to address: your attitude, the proposed environment, the installed routine, but also natural treatments to help your dog better manage his emotions.